Writing: giving myself permission to fail

The Old Poop (my nickname for my adorable hubby) and I are driving to Bloomington tomorrow to pick up our grandson. He moved to a new apartment with his friends for their senior year at IU. He drove a U-Haul of furniture down there on Friday, and we’re bringing him back to his car in our driveway. He’ll eat a fast supper here and then hit the road for Detroit and his summer internship. It’s going to be a full day for everyone, so I thought I’d better get my blog up while I still had energy:) That’s the way summers are, though, right? You write around life, day trips, friends and family, and yard work.

It’s been a bit of a challenge to put up a new part of Ophelia’s story every Friday for five weeks, and I’m not sure that was my most brilliant idea, but it’s been worth it. I’ve had so much fun with this writing experiment that I want to try it again–with different goals–sometime soon. Anyway, Part 4 is on my webpage now. For this challenge, I wanted to write a story in five parts where the protagonist made a bad choice at the end of each section except the last. The thing is, I like smart protagonists, so I needed a reason WHY she’d make poor decisions, time and time again, without making her stupid or fickle. That took me a minute, but I’m happy with how the story played out. I wanted her to be fighting grief, but I didn’t want her to be pathetic. I’m not too into weak characters either. Not that grief is weak, but I didn’t want someone who just folded up and quit. Sometime, somehow, my protagonist had to pick up the pieces and move on. That takes time passing, and it’s hard. It took me a minute to get used to writing in first person, present tense, too. But I’m glad I did. I learned that I like writing in first person. It’s so in the character’s head that it pushed me to really “hear” Ophelia.

Just curious. Do any of you prefer first person stories? Third? Why?

At the same time I was playing with my story, I bought Chuck Wendig’s book, The Kick-Ass Writer, and I’m reading that, too. His blog’s just as awesome, and you can find it here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/ A couple of times a year, I get the urge to up my game as a writer. I read a “how to” book that I haven’t tried before. And I stretch my muscles by trying something I haven’t done before. Okay, I don’t experiment with LONG fiction. That’s too much of an investment. I test out new techniques on short stories or short-shorts. That way, if I miserably fail, (and that’s happened), I haven’t invested tons of time. The trick for me, though, is to give myself permission to fail. If I try to write a short story with an unreliable narrator, and I can’t make it gel, I can stick it in a digital cloud and come back to it some other time, when I might think of a way to make it work. If I want to try an unlikeable protagonist, same thing. I did try writing a character who built a wall around herself and came off as cold in one of my novels–and that got mixed reviews. Something I can try to do better some other time. But in a short story, if I want to experiment with language, why not? I might lose a few days of work, but usually I’ve learned something.

When I was younger, I tried writing horror. I can do dark fantasy, but I couldn’t get dark enough for horror. Now that I’m older, and life’s batted me around a bit, I might give it another try in a short story, but it would still be a stretch for me. I was a school teacher. I can hardly stand the thought that someone can’t be fixed, helped, or saved. I wrote mysteries when I started out, and justice always prevailed:) Not so much in horror. Bad things happen to good people. Ich.

Anyway, once in a while I like to push myself in my writing. What do you do to keep your writing fresh? Or are you so buried in stories, you don’t have to think about it? Or do you strive for consistency? Because let’s face it, when a reader picks up one of your stories, he/she comes with certain expectations and doesn’t want to be disappointed.

P.S. Here’s the link for Part 4 of Ophelia’s story, if you’re interested–http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/ophelias-story–part-4.html

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Writing–stretch yourself

My four Emerald Hills novellas are featured on Jen’s blog right now for her Friday Foodie Affair:  http://lratrandom.blogspot.com/.  Jen was one of the first people I met when I joined Goodreads, and like so many of the people I’ve met in the groups I joined there, she’s enriched my writing and reading.  For her foodie blog, she did an author interview and posted  one of my recipes, too.  In the interview, she asked if I had other Emerald Hills novellas in mind to write, and at the time, I did.  I finished two more, but I’ve decided to use those to close out the series.   I hope to make the six of them into a bundle and start concentrating on writing more novels, less novellas.

I’m happy I wrote the Emerald Hills series.  I’ve always been a plot driven person, but I wanted to focus on more romance in those stories.  I started out small.  I hung More Than Bonbons on a mystery frame and padded it with Tana and Nate’s sparring and attraction.  I added even more mystery for Mallory’s Magical Gourds, but by the time I reached Sheri Hits The Right Notes, I was getting more comfortable with characters driving the story line.  Sole Responsibilities doesn’t have any mystery at all.  And I liked it that way.

I’m glad I tried something new, something outside my comfort zone, for that series.  I learned a lot.  Clues and action are great, but so are misunderstandings, conflicting goals, and chaotic emotions for creating conflict and tension.  By concentrating on trying to get two people together, I had to amplify the give and take of relationships, the nuances that hint at something more, and for me, what seemed nearly impossible–filling 40+ pages with two people taking one step at a time toward becoming a couple.

I didn’t think I had romance in me, but I did.  And it’s made me a better writer.  I like to try things in my writing that I’m not the best at, so that I concentrate on the “how to” of getting them right.  I hope I always keep growing as a writer.  Sometimes I bomb, and then I have to shift gears and grit my teeth for rewrites.  But that’s what second and third drafts are for, right?   So for me, it’s worth taking a chance and flexing muscles I don’t have yet, but muscles I just might get.

P.S.  The Babet & Prosper Collection II bundle will be free on Kindle from Nov. 12 to 15.  cover_mockup_30_thumb    http://www.amazon.com/Babet-Prosper-Collection-II-Bogeyman-ebook/dp/B00FBG7J4I/ref=sr_1_10?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1384045162&sr=1-10&keywords=Judith+Post